• Rhode Island to ban flame retardants in 2019
• Connecticut, Massachusetts considering similar bills
• Consumer Product Safety Commission also will take action to restrict the chemicals
Furniture suppliers have two years to stop delivering products to Rhode Island that contain flame retardants banned by a new state law.
The measure (S. 199), which slipped quietly into law Oct. 4 without a signature or veto from Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), bans organohalogen flame retardants from furniture, mattresses, and upholstered bedding that is manufactured or sold by wholesalers or retailers in the state beginning July 1, 2019.
The ban, and similar laws in other states, was pushed by a coalition of environmental advocates and firefighters, who link an increase in firefighter cancer rates to exposure to the chemicals. Environmental and health advocates say the chemicals are dangerous to the nervous system.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted Sept. 20 to study how to restrict organohalogens
in consumer products. Some companies, including Crate and Barrel, Ikea, La-Z-Boy,
and Macy's, reacted to consumer concerns and California's proposals by removing the
chemicals nationwide from their products years ago.
Fines in Rhode Island
The Rhode Island law bans organohalogens in home furniture above certain concentrations. Businesses face a $5,000 fine for a first violation and a $10,000 fine for any additional violations.
Environmental advocates tried twice before to pass a bill banning the chemicals, Johnathan Berard, R.I. director of Clean Water Action, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 4 . This year, they joined with firefighters and first responders and that made the difference, Berard said.
The American Chemistry Council opposed the Rhode Island bill, arguing that flame retardants make furniture safer.
“This law will remove a critical layer of fire protection and could increase the vulnerability of the citizens of Rhode Island when fires occur. The people of the state certainly understand well how devastating fires can be, given that 100 people were killed and 230 injured at the Station Nightclub in West Warwick in 2003,” Bryan Goodman, spokesman for the council, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 4, in an email. Flame retardants provide important protection during fires, he said.
Berkshire Hathaway, which has a large furniture division, did not reply to a request for comment.
Maine approved a ban in August. Similar bills are pending in Connecticut and Massachusetts. With Rhode Island, 14 states have flame retardant restrictions on furniture although they differ in each location, according to Safer States, an advocacy organization. Of those, only Maine's ban is comprehensive, and will prohibit all flame retardants in 2019.
“Our hope is that with Rhode Island passing this bill, those two states [Connecticut and Massachusetts] will catch on,” Berard said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Adrianne Appel in Boston at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at firstname.lastname@example.org